Recognizing innovative practices: Peers and diverse perspective on the interview panel
Pauline O’Brien interviewed Mireille Rabaté and Nicole Jackson on their staff selection process

It’s quite a responsibility to find and recruit the right teachers, and it’s largely the responsibility of school leadership to do so. When a school takes a more egalitarian approach by formally inviting teaching staff into the recruitment process, a school’s chances of recruiting the right person with the right fit for that school’s culture increases—according to Mireille Rabaté and Nicole Jackson at Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill.

When I work with school leaders to help them find and recruit new staff, I am always focused on providing them with the best possible advice and guidance as I identify the best recruitment solution; who to hire, the most effective approach or strategy. As we carry out Career & Recruitment Services at CIS, our focus is on how we will apply our knowledge and expertise to help the school be successful. At the same time, with each school I visit, I increase my own knowledge on how schools manage their recruitment processes. Witnessing innovative school practices enables me to build a deeper understanding so I can represent them fully when recruiting on their behalf, arming me with new strategies to share with other schools across our membership community.

Recently, I visited Lycée International de Londres to meet with Head of School Mireille Rabaté, a school leader with incredible energy, enthusiasm and commitment to international education, together with her colleague Nicole Jackson, Head of Human Resources. We’ve supported Mireille and Nicole with their recruitment needs for some time, meeting at recruitment fairs and helping them find candidates since the school opened four years ago. But this was my first trip to the school itself, and it was on this occasion that hearing about their peer-based approach to the recruitment process really made me lean in to learn more. And they’ve had a lot of practice; Mireille screened 862 CVs to recruit 50 positions during the school’s first year!

Learning from other schools

Before Mireille started to recruit for the new school four years ago, she cites her many school visits around the world over ten years as a CIS volunteer evaluator as having a tremendous influence on the practices she developed and implemented at the Lycée, including how to recruit.

She has played an active part in CIS International Accreditation; as part of a visiting team, as Chair, and as a report reader. These unique experiences provided her with eye-opening opportunities to see from the inside what other schools do and she reflected on how a school’s daily actions bring its mission to life. This helped her significantly when she set up the Lycée International de Londres from scratch (and it was truly from scratch; from the colour of the cups in the canteen to the drafting of safeguarding policies!), learning which behaviours and practices she wanted to emulate and which to avoid.

Now on their way to CIS International Accreditation, Mireille encourages her staff to serve on CIS volunteer school accreditation teams for their own professional development so that the Lycée can continue to benefit from the practices they see elsewhere. A teacher, a PA and a member of her HR team are all lined up for upcoming visits.  

Sharing the responsibility of recruitment with your teaching staff

Mireille and Nicole often work with my team for what she has called our “carefully planned organisation of candidate interviews” and “great opportunities for a young school to reach out to quality candidates.” If they receive CVs directly, Nicole first completes a pre-screening of the CVs and cover letters before passing them along to the appropriate school’s teaching department for review and later to be part of an interview panel. Mireille then reviews the CVs and conducts interviews considering the feedback of her trusted teaching team.

It’s a mutually beneficial experience for all involved. The candidate is evaluated by and gets a sense of the people they might be working alongside every day and a picture of the school’s diverse culture during the panel interview. The teachers on the panel have an opportunity to discuss the type of experience and skills required to perform in the job as well as to evaluate a potential candidate's “fit” with the rest of the teaching team. They also value this experience as a professional development opportunity as training and coaching are provided on safer recruitment practices and interview techniques.

Diverse representation on the panel is an essential element of the process. In the world of international education, getting a head-start in navigating cultural skills and competencies at the recruitment stage is enormously valuable. With staff from 55 countries bringing different kinds of qualifications, experience and cultural behaviours, Mireille and Nicole must find a way to evaluate each recruit effectively and equitably. A diverse interview panel is more likely to include someone who will be able to help Mireille and Nicole understand the skills, qualifications and experience that someone brings from a culture with which they may be unfamiliar. Their staff have said, “Oh, I have experience of that kind of practice in action, I can help you understand more about it.”

Something that Mireille came to realise during school visits with CIS is that there is no such thing as a typical classroom. We each have an idea of what a "good" classroom experience looks like, but we need the perspectives of others to expand our views. A school’s culture is something you don’t fully realise, even when you’re within it. To quote the American writer David Foster Wallace:

“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What ... is water?”

Water, What's water? From quote by American writer David Foster Wallace

Overcoming challenges through collaboration

As intercultural dynamics change and evolve, Mireille and Nicole are careful to keep supporting and developing their staff accordingly. Ongoing training and development for a healthy school culture is part of everyone’s agenda at their school with culture-focused professional development taking place at the all-staff meeting every two weeks. It can sometimes be a little awkward and uncomfortable as they explore different cultural norms and behaviours. For example, they’ve run sessions on non-verbal communication, a powerful session where the idea of touch was challenging for some. They also welcomed a professional sophrologist to come and work with their staff on stress management, breathing techniques and mindfulness. People from different cultures respond to different kinds of training and not every training session has had an impact on everyone, but by offering a range of training options, they know they’re making a positive difference.

In their first year, Lycée International de Londres recruited 50 staff for their 450 students. Now they have 120 staff and 900 students. It is with great pride that they have retained 50% of the original staff, which is significant given the migrational nature of international teaching communities. They don’t rest on their laurels, they continuously explore ways to ensure effective recruitment practices using strategies to promote a healthy, happy, inclusive staff experience.

Pauline O’Brien, CIS Director of Career & Recruitment Services, interviewed Head of School Mireille Rabaté and Head of HR Nicole Jackson from Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill in London.

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